Wednesday, September 21, 2022

‘Bolívar’s Scottish Rite regalia’

   
Magpie file photo
The Thirty-Second Degree collar and apron owned by Simón Bolívar. I shot this photo at Fraunces Tavern Museum twenty years ago when Tom Savini curated an exhibit of Livingston Library treasures there. I had this published in The Northern Light not long after.

One week from tomorrow, the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library will host an online discussion of the Scottish Rite regalia owned by Bro. Simón Bolívar. Bro. Alexander Vastola, Director of the library, will be the presenter, explaining Bolívar’s Masonic life, and how his Thirty-Second Degree collar and apron became the property of the library.

Thursday, September 29 at 7 p.m. Click here to register.

Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), “the George Washington of South America,” was a military and political leader essential to the liberation of multiple South American nations from Spanish colonial control, including Venezuela, Colombia, and, of course, Bolivia. His Masonic lodge is unknown, but history remembers him, with Argentine José de San Martin and Cuban José Martí, also Freemasons, as heroes of their nations’ wars of independence.

Central Park Conservancy
Our city has been adorned with several Bolívar monuments since 1891. The current statue was dedicated at Bolivar Hill in 1921. President Warren Harding, made a Mason the previous year in Marion Lodge 70 in Ohio, delivered a foreign policy speech on relations among the Americas at the dedication. The statue was moved to Sixth Avenue at 59th Street, at Central Park, in 1951, after Sixth was dubbed the Avenue of the Americas. (The statues of San Martin and Martí were added there later.)
     

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

‘EA Degree at DeWint House!’

    

Something different is planned for Grand Master’s Day next month at DeWint House: an Entered Apprentice Degree!

I’m guessing this will be outdoors under a tent on the beautiful grounds of the historic site.

Sunday, October 2. Lunch at noon. Degree begins at one o’clock. Bring your regalia. Book your seats with RW Alonza Lloyd (I haven’t sat in lodge with him in ages!) by emailing him here.

If you are unacquainted, DeWint House is a seventeenth century house in Tappan that served as one of Gen. George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolution. It is most famously known for its association with the trial and execution of British Maj. John Andre, conspirator with Gen. Benedict Arnold in the attempted betrayal of West Point. The property was acquired by Grand Lodge about ninety years ago, and it has been preserved as a historic site, with a separate museum, open to the public, for as long as anyone can remember. (I think my lodge played an essential role in inspiring Grand Lodge to buy the land, but I haven’t researched that.) The grounds are populated with numerous exotic trees and other flora, plus monuments, historic graves, and more. Click here for some photos.

It’s well worth visiting any day, but this Grand Master’s Day sounds like an unforgettable occasion.

But wait, there’s more!


At the same time, and about a mile away, the lodges of the Ninth Manhattan District will host their annual Traubenfest, a day of German food, drink, and song. It’s a great, family-friendly time in German Masonic Park that goes until sunset. The two events make for a wonderful day, and in my experience, the weather has been perfect every time somehow.

DeWint House is located at 20 Livingston Street. Traubenfest, in German Masonic Park, is found at 89 Western Highway. Both in Tappan.

See you there.
     

Thursday, September 8, 2022

‘To the King and the Craft’

   
Macoy
That’s a loyal toast that hasn’t been heard in British Freemasonry in seventy years, since the death of Bro. Albert Frederick Arthur George—King George VI—but the time for that has come again this hour upon the official announcement of the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Condolences to the brethren wherever dispersed about the face of the earth.

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and cousin of Her Majesty, is Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. Prince Michael of Kent is Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons. 

A period of mourning has begun which surely will postpone the quarterly communication of the UGLE.

“God save the King.”



     

‘Help wanted: researching the researchers’

    

I never ask Magpie readers for anything—except to join the Masonic Society—but today I’m hoping some of you would complete a very brief questionnaire if you are authorized to speak for a research lodge, or some similar group, or a website, podcast, etc. in service to the Craft.

Bro. Ken Stuczynski, the Grand Lodge of New York’s webmaster, an author, and a brother in Western New York Lodge of Research, is undertaking research to write a book on research lodges. From the publicity:


Masonic author Ken JP Stuczynski is putting together a book on research lodges, societies, and other bodies. To include your organization, contact him here. For more information, visit here.


At the website—click here—we may answer his few questions about our avenues of Masonic learning. Takes one minute.

I’m sharing this link with all my friends who are active in lodges of research, chapters of research, research societies, publishers, magazines, and more. Please do the same (although Ken needs only one respondent per organization). Thanks!
     

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

'Remembering John Skene from Aberdeen'

      
Bob Howard photo
The Masonic Kitties of New Jersey were well represented at this memorial. The Kilties is a degree team that confers the Second Section of Master Mason Degree, upon request, and does so in Scottish regalia and with bagpipes. A memorable experience, I can tell you.

I have to catch up on my reporting of a few terrific events here and there recently. The following is a recap of a celebration of Masonic history that took place in New Jersey on August 27.


Brethren from around New Jersey and beyond converged on the Peachfield historic site in Westampton on the afternoon of August 27 to honor the memory of the first Speculative Mason to arrive in North America.

Bro. Robert Howard
The elaborate ceremonies were arranged by RW Bro. Bob Howard, Past Grand Historian and Past Master of the research lodge, acting on behalf of Eclipse Lodge 67 in Rutherford; Beverly-Riverside Lodge 107 in Riverside; and the Masonic Kilties of New Jersey. John Skene was made a Mason in his native Aberdeen, Scotland, a fact recorded in the lodge’s archives one of the very few things known of his life—and he emigrated to West Jersey in 1682. What we know today as New Jersey was at that time two English colonies, West Jersey and East Jersey. Burlington was the capital of West Jersey, and it was there where Skene settled. The reasons for his leaving Scotland are not recorded, although he was a Quaker who left religiously inhospitable Scotland and made a home in an area inhabited by many Quaker families, very near the sect’s stronghold in Pennsylvania.

“Coming of age when religious turmoil was the norm, John Skene’s membership in the Society of Friends provided him anything but the peaceful and pacifist existence that we associate with Quakerism today,” said Bro. Erich Huhn, of New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786 and a candidate for a doctorate in history at Drew University. “The Friends were persecuted throughout his childhood, and, as Skene reached adulthood, he held true to his convictions. As a Quaker, he was persecuted and imprisoned throughout his life in Scotland. In the typical ebbs and flows of seventeenth century religious turmoil, he faced various periods of imprisonment, freedom, house arrest, and discrimination.”

A wreath was sent by Skene’s lodge, still at labor in Aberdeen.

Yet, the seventeenth century also was the age of the Accepted Mason, when lodges of operative builders began welcoming men who had no connection either to the art of architecture or to the trade of stone construction. Robert Moray in 1641 and Elias Ashmole in 1646 probably are the best known, but lodge minutes from 1590s Scotland also record the making of Speculative Masons. Skene was initiated into the lodge at Aberdeen approximately in 1670 possibly on account of his being a merchant and a citizen prominent enough to be made a burgess there. His being a Quaker raises the question of his taking a Masonic oath, but again history is silent on details.

Bro. Bob Cooper
Among the distinguished visitors to New Jersey that day was Bro. Robert L.D. Cooper, recently retired as curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland’s museum and one who has been frequenting New Jersey lodges this year delivering talks on early Scottish Freemasonry. Cooper said he is aware of correspondence being exchanged between West Jerseyan Skene and his family in Aberdeenshire, likely urging emigration to the colony, but availability of any letters cannot be ascertained. Skene’s lodge isn’t as mysterious, however. Cooper described it as a “mixed lodge” consisting of “stone masons and dukes and porridge-makers.” As for life in West Jersey, Cooper said that Skene, as a businessman, partnered with the second Mason to reach North America, Bro. John Coburn, a stonemason, in a construction enterprise that might even be credited with some of the oldest buildings on Staten Island.

Arriving in West Jersey, Skene purchased 500 acres from Governor Edward Byllynge and founded his plantation, which he named Peachfield. Not long thereafter, Byllynge appointed Skene the Deputy Governor. Seventeenth century colonial records being what they are, it is not known how Skene earned the appointment, but the land acquisition preceding it could not have been meaningless. Another quirk of history emerges when Byllynge was succeeded as Governor by Dr. Daniel Coxe, the father of Provincial Grand Master Daniel Coxe, who was appointed by the Grand Lodge of England in 1730 to govern Masonic affairs in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Dedicated in 1984 by the grand lodge, this stone stands on the land John Skene owned, Peachfield. A different calendar was in use during the seventeenth century, so to commemorate Skene's death, you have to play along.

After Skene’s death circa 1690 (accounts of the year vary), his widow gradually sold off tracts of the Peachfield plantation. All that remains today is a stone house built 1725-32, which was damaged by fire in 1929 and restored in the early 1930s, situated on 120 acres. The property is only three miles from the Masonic Village at Burlington. In 1984, the local grand lodge dedicated a headstone memorializing this historic Brother Mason. The exact location of his burial place is unknown, but August 27, 1690 is the date of death engraved in the stone.

Bro. Mark and Bro. Glenn.
Look for them on YouTube.

The event on August 27 featured many participants. Assisting emcee Bob Howard was W. Bro. Christian Stebbins. Leading prayers were RW Glenn Visscher and RW Eugene Margroff, with RW Mark Megee reading from Scripture. Bro. David Palladino-Sinclair of the Kilties serenaded the group with his bagpipes, performing “Flower of Scotland,” “Scotland the Brave,” and “Amazing Grace.” A wreath was placed at the gravestone by Cooper and the Worshipful Masters of both Eclipse and Beverly-Riverside, Patrick Glover and Frederick T. Ocansey, respectively. In his closing remarks, RW Bro. David Tucker, Deputy Grand Master, told the assemblage that looking to the past for role models helps take our focus off ourselves, and that it is fitting to salute John Skene for being the earliest Freemason who deserves credit for helping establish the fraternity in New Jersey.

Bro. David Palladino-Sinclair

Also traveling some distance was Mark Tabbert of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Virginia, who told us of the Scottish Freemasons in America conference there in November.

The celebration of Skene was not over yet. The group caravanned to Mt. Holly Lodge 14 for a catered dinner replete with Masonic toasts following a tour of the historic building.

Peachfield is owned and operated by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of New Jersey, which makes the site its headquarters. Tours, including for groups, can be arranged by phoning 609.267.6996.
     

Monday, September 5, 2022

‘Traubenfest 2022’

    

The Ninth Manhattan District’s annual Traubenfest is such a local success in Tappan, and has been a tradition there since 1890, that the brethren don’t advertise the event, so I try to help by informing those from outside the area who happen to like beer and bratwurst.

The details are in the graphic above, and I promise you it’s a great time. Family-friendly and all that.

Also not being promoted for whatever reason is Grand Master’s Day at DeWint House the same day, where an Entered Apprentice Degree is planned. The two locations are maybe a mile apart, so that’ll be a very satisfying full day for those of us attending both happenings.
     

Saturday, September 3, 2022

‘Fraternitas’

    
BROTHERS IN ARMS—Italian pipemaking houses Luigi Viprati and Ser Jacopo are united in a new venture: Fraternitas. Okay, and handcuffs too. Fraternitas pairs one pipe from each maker in limited edition sets. So far, they seem to be available from Al Pascia only.

Just announced several hours ago by Al Pascia in Milan, and already selling fast, are the wares crafted jointly by both Ser Jacopo and Viprati, two of Italy’s best skilled makers of briar pipes. Their limited edition Fraternitas sets are comprised of one pipe from each.

Al Pascia

I can’t find any background information yet, except that smooth and sandblasted finishes are available. Each set sells for about $625 without the VAT. (I’m assuming the sandblasted costs a little less.) Al Pascia even giftwraps. That’s a great price for two pipes from those outfits.



     

Thursday, September 1, 2022

‘What to do when your bylaws are historic’

    
St. John’s Lodge No. 1 Foundation

September? Really? Well, time flies, but preserving history is a perennial task that requires a lot of our present time, and congratulations to St. John’s Lodge 1 of New York City for ensuring an irreplaceable historic book will survive another couple of centuries.

Acting through its educational foundation, which aims to preserve the lodge’s 1767 King James Bible on which the first American president familiarly placed his hands while taking his Constitutional oath of office, St. John’s has preserved its 1784 book of bylaws also.

The leather-bound volume’s impressive history involves the Revolutionary War, a second lodge named St. John’s, and the signatures of many notable people. Read all about it here.
     

Monday, August 29, 2022

‘The ALR: Master’s update

    
If you are not yet a member of The American Lodge of Research, you didn’t receive the message from our Worshipful Master last night providing an update of our plans. I won’t repeat what I’ve shared in previous Magpie posts, but news you can use include:

Upcoming Meetings

We will meet four times during the new Masonic year.

Tuesday, October 25 at 7 p.m. in Masonic Hall’s Colonial Room.

Thursday, December 1 at 7:30 (dinner at 6:30) at West Point Lodge 877 in Highland Falls. A joint meeting with the historic lodge located just steps away from the Military Academy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023 at seven o’clock back in the Colonial Room.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023 also at seven and in the Colonial Room.

The speakers at these meetings will be announced in a timely manner. For the year, The ALR aims to bring eight presenters to the lectern; four are booked thus far. If you are desirous of making a little Masonic history of your own by presenting your research in America’s oldest educational and literary lodge, just contact WM Conor here. (If you do not wish to present orally in lodge but still have something to publish in our next book of transactions, that’s great too.)

Tokens of Membership

Aprons! Jewels! Certificates!

Okay, I’ll repeat a little of what I’ve shared before because this is updated information. There now are aprons, manufactured by the venerable Macoy Masonic Supply Co. in Virginia, available to members in good standing. Their design is based on our aprons from the 1930s. Our Past Masters may purchase PM aprons, and members may buy the MM aprons. $250 each. Photos and ordering info to come soon so check our website.

Magpie file photo
Macoy makes our aprons. Here’s our Senior Deacon regalia that I wore at our last meeting.

Membership jewels for both the Active and Corresponding brethren are being updated by a new vendor. More on this to come in the fall.

And certificates: I’ve shown you what they look like (it’s the same classic design in use for years), and they will be available through the website shortly.

Hmmm. Not to make more work for the Worshipful Master, but maybe we need lapel pins too. Remind me to bring that up when we meet in October.

I hope brethren of The ALR—past, present, and future—remember that we still are in a period of reorganizing, as demonstrated by the above activities, and if anyone requires assistance, don’t hesitate to contact W. Bro. Praveen, our new Secretary, here.

Hope to see you October 25.
     

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

‘Masonic “church” may be conveyed to town’

    
Suffolk Lodge 60, AYM

The lodge in Port Jefferson proposes to transfer its property to the municipal government, local news media reported last Friday.

The Village of Port Jefferson is located on the North Shore of Long Island and is the hometown of Suffolk Lodge 60. The idea is to convey the property to the village for the purposes of historic preservation and community use. TBR Newsmedia, a website for local news, says Mayor Margot Garant announced discussions with the lodge are underway to transfer ownership to create “a theatrical education studio.”

Suffolk 60 was warranted by Grand Lodge in 1796; naturally, it is among the oldest in the state, and it employs “Ancient York Masons” in its appellation.

patch.com

The building at issue had been a Presbyterian church before the lodge purchased it in 1910. (News coverage of the proposed deal with the village described Suffolk 60 as a “Masonic church,” economically achieving both annoyance and humor in two words.)

Suffolk Lodge 60, AYM

Also meeting in this building is Suwassett Chapter 195, an Observant Royal Arch chapter. I am unaware if these Masonic groups will have a covenant in the contract that will permit them to continue using the building or if they will relocate, but I’ll update this edition of The Magpie Mason when I find out.
     

Friday, August 19, 2022

‘New grand master calls for initiating women’

    
E. Sultan photo
Grand Master Ilan Segev.
The recently installed Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Israel was quoted in that country’s most widely read newspaper saying he believes it is time for the fraternity there to begin admitting women.

MW Bro. Ilan Segev took office July 12. In a story covering his speech to the brethren published in Israel Hayom (Israel Today) on July 28, he is quoted sharing his opinions on modernizing the Craft. “The world has changed since the Grand Lodge of England was founded in 1717. In 2022, we cannot ignore that women make up half of the population, and there is a real need to examine the possibility of making a change. There is no doubt that the principles of Freemasonry speak to every person regardless of religion, race, or gender. I have a number of ideas that I will present to the grand committee of the Grand Lodge, and then we will open it up for discussion in the Order.”

An English translation of the article was posted to the newspaper’s website on August 4. The reporter, Eyal Levi, followed up with an interview and wrote of far more than the eye-grabbing talk of membership transformation. Click here to read it entirely.

“Women are not currently accepted,” the article continues, but, Segev said “it may change. I am working on it. There are lodges in France that have opened up for women already. I am thinking of a certain model, which I won’t go into details about now, but I want women to play a big role in the society. When Freemasonry was first established, women didn’t work, they stayed at home. In 2022, the world is different, and we must progress.”


“What will happen for sure I do not know, but through a process, I believe soon women will also be able to be Freemasons. I said during the ceremony, ‘Freedom, Equality, and Brotherhood. Love, Help, and Truth.’ Any knowledgeable person can except these values. That is why we will have to change the system and adjust the constitution.”

The current Grand Lodge of Israel will reach its seventieth anniversary next year. Click here for Bro. Leon Zeldin’s brief history of Freemasonry there.
     

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

‘Grand Orient condemns Rushdie attack’

    
Reuters
Salman Rushdie

In a statement published yesterday, the Grand Orient of France denounced the vicious assault on author Salman Rushdie last Friday in western New York, labeling it “a crime against freedom.” The unsigned letter protests religious extremism, particularly the Islamist ideology that fomented the attempted murder of the 75-year-old.

According to reports, Rushdie is in critical condition, but is expected to survive multiple stab wounds, albeit at the cost of an eye and other damage.

After publication in 1988 of his novel The Satanic Verses, Rushdie was named the subject of a fatwa—an official ruling in Islamic jurisprudence—issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then the theocratic ruler of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which demands Rushdie’s murder. Khomeini died in 1989, but the edict stands. The would-be killer is identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar, who pleaded not guilty Saturday to charges of attempted murder and assault. (It means nothing in this Rushdie case, but Khomeini resided in France before returning to Iran and taking over the new revolutionary government after Freemason Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the shah, fled in 1979.)


“Religious extremists have always wanted to impose submission on all believers and unbelievers at all costs,” the GOF communiqué also says. “Today, it is political Islam that, to ensure its grip on consciences and the brigade of fanatical minds, wants to spread fear by intimidation, threats, imprisonment, torture, and killing women and men who refuse to submit.”

If you’re unacquainted, the Grand Orient of France leadership often opines publicly on social and political ideas and events.

“Freedom of conscience gives each and every one the right to believe or not believe; to practice a certain religion, to change, or have none; to be religious, atheistic, agnostic, or indifferent to religion,” the Masons’ statement also says. “Freedom of expression includes critical doubt and the right to disregard any power—political, religious, or otherwise.”

The Grand Orient of France is the eldest and largest of the Masonic orders in the French Republic, although it is not the one we Americans recognize. (We are in amity with the National Grand Lodge of France, created by the English in 1913.)

The entire message, in French, can be read on the Grand Orient’s website.
     

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

‘Civil War Lodge to bivouac in Maryland’

    

Civil War Lodge of Research 1865 will convene its September meeting to mark the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. This lodge is chartered by the Grand Lodge of Virginia to preserve understandings of Freemasonry’s varied ties to the U.S. Civil War, and the lodge travels to places significant to that war.

On Saturday, September 17, the brethren will visit Antietam National Battlefield after its meeting at Antietam Lodge 197, both in Maryland. I believe it is the only lodge in the country named for a Civil War battle.

The night before the meeting, everyone will get together for dinner at Captain Benders Tavern in Sharpsburg at 6:30.

The meeting will open at 10 a.m. Saturday at the lodge in Keedysville.

Lunch at 12:30 at Bonnie’s at the Red Byrd.

At two o’clock, the group will visit Antietam National Battlefield. This is exactly the 160th anniversary of what is termed “the bloodiest day in American history,” and at 3 p.m. there will be a commemoration ceremony.

The group will have dinner together at 6:30 at Rik’s Cafe.

Overnight accommodations have been arranged at Sleep Inn & Suites Hagerstown.

It sounds like a productive and memorable weekend. It’s a little too far for me, but hopefully some of you can participate and even join the lodge.

I hope the brethren consider New York City as a future destination. No official battlefield here, but other points of great interest are in abundance.
     

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

‘MLMA to talk Quarry Project’

    

UPDATE: September 2–Change of plans! Meeting will not be in person, but via Zoom. Details TBA.


The Masonic Library and Museum Association will convene in Phoenix for its annual meeting at the end of next month. Today, the host announced a tentative agenda for the weekend. Some details still need to be fleshed out, but members can plan to see each other from Thursday, September 29 through Sunday, October 2.

Accommodations have been arranged at the Hilton Garden Inn, and the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of Arizona will host the business meeting and other functions, as well as a tour of its Roskruge & Casey Library and Museum.

Quarry Project III

Yes, it’s coming together. The third Quarry Project is being planned for the fall of 2023! It’s a top agenda item.

These conferences are devised jointly by the Masonic Society, the MLMA, and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial for the purpose of promoting the arts of researching, writing, publishing, collecting, curating, etc. in the Masonic fraternity. The MLMA contacted the Masonic Society last year, while I was El Presidente, to suggest a third forum, and it is taking shape.


We’ll do it at the GWMNM, which will enjoy a fruitful year in 2023. It’ll be the centennial celebration of the memorial’s cornerstone laying in February; the Anderson’s Constitutions tricentennial symposium in June; Quarry Project III in autumn; and other marquee happenings, I’m sure.

In the meantime, the MLMA’s meeting next month will feature tours of local museums, great meals, speakers at the lectern, some operative labor in the Masonic library, and even an optional table lodge at Scottsdale 43.

Phoenix is a bit beyond my usual orbit, so I won’t see everyone until Quarry Project III in Virginia, but the purpose of this edition of The Magpie Mason is to alert brethren in Arizona who appreciate the unsung undertakings of the happy few in Masonic archiving and exhibiting. Contact Bo Buchanan, president of your library and museum, to get involved.
     

Sunday, August 7, 2022

‘Make our lectures and lodges a real force in society’

    
William Preston
It’s still the seventh for a few more minutes, so happy birthday to William Preston, born on this date in 1742. Preston, of course, is the author of one of the most significant Masonic texts. His Illustrations of Masonry gave shape to the lectures most American lodges use, 250 years after its initial publication.

There’s a lot to talk about regarding Preston and his work, but this edition of The Magpie Mason borrows from another author from a more recent century. Roscoe Pound was made a Mason at Lancaster Lodge 54 in his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska; later in life, in Massachusetts in 1915, he became Deputy Grand Master, and helped launch The Harvard Lodge. At Harvard University, Pound served as dean of the law school for twenty years.

To be frank, he is one of those famous Masons whose public life sounds admirable, but whose opinions contain ideas that make me cringe, and I’ll leave it to you to investigate that. Regardless, also in 1915, Pound published a book titled Lectures on the Philosophy of Freemasonry in which he upholds four titans of Masonic theory and explains their enormous importance to our Craft. I say this book is essential reading.


William Preston is the first of the quartet he biographized and defined in historical context. It is a succinct Masonic life story that can save you the time needed to peruse any number of research papers printed in old editions of AQC. And I leave that to you as well.

Pound explains how Preston was a man of his times. Call it the Enlightenment or the Age of Discovery or the Age of Reason or what have you, but Preston’s era was characterized by all kinds of pursuits of empirical evidence, from scientific understanding of anatomy to exploration of the planet to understanding the heavens. What had been accepted as knowledge during the Renaissance no longer sufficed; the time for peering into the past had ended.


“That the eighteenth century was the era of purely intellectualist philosophy, naturally determined Preston’s philosophy of Masonry,” writes Pound. “At that time, reason was the central idea of all philosophical thought. Knowledge was regarded as the universal solvent. Hence, when Preston found in his old lectures that among other things Masonry was a body of knowledge, and discovered in the Old Charges a history of knowledge and of its transmission from antiquity, it was inevitable that he make knowledge the central point of his system.”

If you ever wondered how the pillars in the porch of KST came to be adorned with globes, a detail not found in Scripture and is weirdly anachronistic, it was Bro. Preston who metaphorically climbed up and installed them. “In other words, these globes are not symbolic, they are not designed for moral improvement. They rest upon the pillars, grotesquely out of place, simply and solely to teach the lodge the elements of geography and astronomy,” Pound explains.

It’s an insightful examination of the man and his Masonic legacy, and the remarkable portion is served in the concluding paragraphs when Pound explains that what was good for the late eighteenth century lodge isn’t right for today’s (1915) Masons. “I suspect we do Preston a great injustice in thus preserving the literal terms of the lectures at the expense of their fundamental idea. In his day, they did teach—today they do not.” Roscoe Pound, a proponent of new methodology in his profession, the law, wanted new lectures written to teach Masons in the early twentieth century about their modern age.

Roscoe Pound
“In Preston’s day, there was a general need, from which Preston had suffered, of popular education—of providing the means whereby the common man could acquire knowledge in general. Today there is no less general need of a special kind of knowledge. Society is divided sharply into classes that understand each other none too well and hence are getting wholly out of sympathy,” Pound continues. “What nobler Masonic lecture could there be than one which took up the fundamenta of social science and undertook to spread a sound knowledge of it among all Masons?”

And finally: “Preston of course was wrong—knowledge is not the sole end of Masonry. But in another way Preston was right. Knowledge is one end—at least one proximate end—and it is not the least of those by which human perfection shall be attained. Preston’s mistakes were the mistakes of his century—the mistake of faith in the finality of what was known to that era, and the mistake of regarding correct formal presentation as the one sound method of instruction. But what shall be said of the greater mistake we make today, when we go on reciting his lectures—shorn and abridged till they mean nothing to the hearer—and gravely presenting them as a system of Masonic knowledge? Bear in mind, he thought of them as presenting a general scheme of knowledge, not as a system of purely Masonic information. If we were governed by his spirit, understood the root idea of his philosophy, and had but half his zeal and diligence, surely we could make our lectures, and through them our lodges, a real force in society…. I hate to think that all initiative is gone from our Order and that no new Preston will arise to take up his conception of Knowledge as an end of the fraternity, and present to the Masons of today the knowledge which they ought to possess.”

I can see how preserving remnants of Prestonian lectures in our degrees today fossilizes the fraternity in the amber of the 1700s. (Is that perceived as irrelevance by some who disappear after the Third Degree? Or the First?) But you have to be careful what you wish for.

If you know Roscoe Pound from outside Freemasonry, then you are aware of his thinking in the legal profession and on social issues. This public Pound of 1915 seems to be mostly forgotten today, but he would be at home among, say, the city prosecutors who refuse to prosecute criminals. His call for new lectures—and he stipulates a careful trial process, although I didn’t quote it above—isn’t nonsensical, but I’d worry how that would go. Would understanding the Physical Senses be replaced by today’s wacky gender theory? Could the Arts and Sciences be supplanted by political environmentalism? Might post-colonial revolutionary doctrine convert Solomon into a Phillistine?

I won’t say it can’t be discussed, but you have to be very cautious about reforming Masonic identity.
     

Thursday, August 4, 2022

‘Ham radio day at DeWint House’

    
From The Simpsons, of course.

There are subcultures in the Masonic world of which I know next to nothing. Case in point: the ham radio guys.

I’ve heard about them. I’m acquainted with several of them. If I’m not mistaken, there has been some recent talk of establishing an affinity lodge somewhere in this area for amateur radio enthusiasts.

I don’t even turn on my phone, so this activity isn’t for me, but maybe this news is welcome to you. On Saturday, September 24, Freemasons from New York and environs will gather at historic DeWint House in Tappan for a full day of ham radioing.

Set-up starts at 9 a.m. and closing time will be seven at night, with the event running from 10 to 6. But I imagine the point is to talk on the radio, so that entails contacting W2QX on frequency NJ2BS.

The other details are in the image below, if you can make it out.


During childhood, my family had an impressive Citizens Band radio array. Believe it or not, CB radio was quite a craze in the seventies. We had some kind of amplifier that allowed me to speak with a guy in Tennessee one time! Fun for me, but not so much for the neighbors, who heard my every word when they were trying to watch Johnny Carson.
      

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

‘Amity’s time capsule opened’

    
A Knights Templar ceramic piece was among the artifacts recovered from the time capsule in Ohio’s Zanesville Masonic Temple. (All photos from WHIZ.)

The time capsule rescued from the ruins of the Zanesville Masonic Temple in Ohio, which burned down in January, was opened Saturday.


About sixty Freemasons and friends of the fraternity gathered for a fundraising dinner to benefit Lodge of Amity 5, which lost its home when the registered landmark burned, at which time the perfectly sealed metal box was breached by use of a power saw, local media have reported. Inside were various mementos of U.S. and Masonic coinage, postage stamps, ceramics, and many documents, photos, and ephemera, all practically as pristine as when they were deposited into the box in 1902.


Click here for Zanesville Times Recorder coverage and here for WHIZ photos and video. And here for previous Magpie news.
     

Monday, August 1, 2022

‘Melville, Moby, and Masonry’

    

The real genius of Herman Melville is in how he published Moby Dick before Led Zeppelin could release its indulgent instrumental track of the same name. I’m joking of course. Melville didn’t even play drums.

Nor was he a Freemason, as far as can be determined. Nevertheless, Fraternal Review, the periodical of Southern California Research Lodge, devoted its July issue to “Moby Dick and Freemasonry,” assembling six articles to place the early American author into some Masonic context.

Melville was born on this date in 1819 here in New York City. Other than being tasked to read his short story “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” for class decades ago, I am inexperienced in Melville studies; haven’t even read his signature novel, despite owning a copy my whole adult life; and generally am weak in early nineteenth century American literature. (There’s a funny article in The Critic from Saturday on the avoidance of reading the essential books.)

Michael Jarzabek’s “Herman Melville and Freemasonry” is the cover story. He opens with a quotation from a letter Melville posted to Nathaniel Hawthorne:

“…the Problem of the Universe is like Freemason’s mighty secret, so terrible to all children. It turns out, at last, to consist in a triangle, a mallet, and an apron—nothing more!”

The writer proceeds to cite similarities between the world of whaling and the Masonic Order, and points out the existence of our lodges in noted fishing communities. (I visited one such long ago.) In conclusion, Jarzabek says “The Mason trying to find sincere Masonic meaning in Moby Dick is left wanting…”

Next is Adam Pimental’s “Masonic Thoughts on Moby Dick and New Bedford,” in which he connects the novel to the whaling town of New Bedford, Massachusetts. The town and the tale are linked, as the story mentions it. The article, written by the Master of New Bedford’s Star in the East Lodge, gives some local Masonic history that explains elements of the fictional work. (Star in the East will reach its bicentennial year in 2023.) whales are still in the region. One was spotted today in Boston Harbor.

Patrick Dey, of Nevada Lodge 4 in Colorado, turns in “A Squeeze of the Hand,” in which he delves into the novel’s chapter of the same name. It not only recalls to the Masonic mind certain grips, but this chapter also “perfectly encapsulates” the putting of hands into “the oil of joy, which is not only a blessing, but also holy and divine.”

Baruti KMT-Sisouvong, of Clinton Lodge 15 in Iowa, makes a study of symbolism in the story. A doctoral candidate researching “mystical experiences of Freemasons and Rosicrucians,” he focuses on the tail of the whale, a three-part aspect of the mammal’s anatomy, to suggest there’s a parallel to certain Masonic ideas.

Mark Pearrow, of Norfolk Lodge in Massachusetts, argues there is Masonic metaphor in the brief chapter titled “Cistern and Buckets.” He sees a “rebirth” in part of the plot that may resemble the making of a Mason.

Finally, Bro. Jarzabek returns to close this issue with “Melville’s Semi-Masonic Club,” a few paragraphs sketching what might have been Melville’s background in the esoteric.

On the back cover of the magazine.

An all around interesting issue of Fraternal Review. Subscribe here.